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The Adventures of Paul Kane: Part 8

The Adventures of Paul Kane: Part 8

The York Factory Express

On July 1st, the fur brigade with which Kane had travelled across the continent embarked on its return trip to York Factor. Kane joined this so-called ‘York Factory Express’ and rode with its members in their boats up the Columbia River.

On the second day of their journey, the engages were each allotted one pint of rum. That night, the crew members swapped tales, competed with each other in athletic contests, and engaged in wrestling matches and fistfights. “The next day,” Kane wrote, “the men were stupid from the effects of drink, but quite good-tempered and obedient; in fact, the fights of the previous evening seemed to be a sort of final settlement of all old grudges and disputes.”

After several days of paddling, tracking, poling, and portaging, the party came upon a Flathead Indian burial ground. The Flathead tribe, like many of the Indian nations of the Pacific Northwest, flattened the heads of their babies by binding boards to their foreheads shortly after birth. The skulls of children who underwent this procedure gradually became conical. Hoping to procure such a skull, Kane snuck into the cemetery without attracting the attention of any local Indians or his fellow voyageurs and pulled off a successful grave-robbing, secreting a Flathead skull amongst his baggage.

The following day, a pair of Hawaiian HBC employees deserted the train, each carrying 10 pounds sterling. Indian scouts followed their trail, captured them, and brought them back to the main party. As punishment, the most powerful of voyageurs repeatedly knocked them down and kicked them.

The company continued upriver, often hiring local Indians to assist in portaging their boats and goods around rapids and waterfalls. When they reached a peculiar pair of mountains called the Chimney Rocks, referred to today as the Twin Sisters, Kane stopped to make a sketch of the strange landmark. While he drew, a local Walla-Walla Indian told him an old Indian legend about an ancient battle of wits between a wolf and a grasshopper which took place on the banks of the Columbia, and a subsequent romance between the wolf and three sisters, the resolution of which explained the origin of the Chimney Rocks and other landmarks in the area.

 

Walla-Walla

The brigade continued up the Columbia, leaving the forest for a dry, sandy desert, and arrived at Fort Walla-Walla on July 12th. There, Kane hired a halfbreed guide, purchased three horses, and rode up the Snake River, a tributary of the Columbia which he called the “Nezperees”. He followed the Snake to the mouth of the Palouse River, which he called the “Pelouse”. There, he met a local Indian chief who informed him that upriver he would find a waterfall that no white man had seen before. Kane proceeded up the Palouse and, sure enough, came to the Palouse Falls. “I had not advanced more than a mile,” Kane wrote, “when the chief came up to us and guided us to the falls through one of the boldest and most sublime passes the eye ever beheld. At the foot of the falls we made our encampment, and our guide left us, quite satisfied with his present of tobacco and ammunition. The water falls in one perpendicular sheet of about 600 feet in height, from between rocks of greyish-yellow colour, which rise to about 400 feet above the summit of the fall. The water tumbles into a rocky basin below, with a continuous hollow echoing roar, and courses with great velocity along its bed, until it falls into the Nezperees.”

Kane and his guide proceeded above the falls, where they found a field of succulent wild currents. The travellers continued up the river, Kane sketching as he went, making their way through a desolate desert. Eventually, Kane’s guide protested that he had to return to the fort in order to check on his wife, of whom he was jealous. Reluctantly, the painter followed his guide back to Fort Walla-Walla.

On July 18th, presumably after his guide had checked on his wife, Kane and his companion headed for a Presbyterian mission headed by a Dr. Marcus Whitman, said to lie sixty miles from Fort Walla-Walla. Although local Indians warned Kane that he would die of thirst before he reached the mission, the painter decided to risk the journey anyway. The pair reached the mission house at 6:00 p.m. in a state of severe dehydration.

Kane spent the next few days visiting with Dr. Whitman and his wife, and meeting and sketching several of the local Cayuse Indians. The painter noted that, by middle age, the teeth of most of the regional natives was worn to the gums on account of the sand which often tainted their food.

Kane and his guide returned to Fort Walla-Walla on July 22nd, where a large war party of Walla-Walla and Cayuse Indians had just returned from a disastrous campaign against Californian prospectors. Fearing that the warriors might gratify their frustration by killing him, the painter remained in the fort for a week and a half.

Continued in The Adventures of Paul Kane: Part 9.

The Adventures of Paul Kane: Part 7

Back to The Adventures of Paul Kane: Part 6.

The Adventures of Paul Kane: Part 7

Vancouver Island

Kane and his companions spent a day in the Nisqually Indian village before departing on April 8th, paddling up Puget Sound and across the Salish Sea to Fort Victoria on Vancouver Island. There, the fort’s factor, Mr. Finlayson, furnished Kane with a comfortable room.

Paul Kane spent the next two months on Vancouver Island, sketching the natives he encountered on various “sketching excursions”. During the course of his wanderings, he witnessed various Coast Salish mask dances and gambling games.

In early May, four Coast Salish Indians accompanied Kane on a journey to the west side of Vancouver Island. They paddled south down the coast for the Strait of Juan de Fuca. On the way, the travellers were accosted by a band of Indians whose chief, in an almost hostile manner, demanded that Kane draw his portrait. Kane and his companions were obliged to spend the night encamped near the village on account of a storm. That evening, Kane witnessed a shamanic healing ceremony, which he described thus:

“About 10 o’clock at night I strolled into the village, and on hearing a great noise in one of the lodges I entered it, and found an old woman supporting one of the handsomest Indian girls I had ever seen. She was in a state of nudity. Cross-legged and naked, in the middle of the room sat the medicine man, with a wooden dish of water before him; twelve or fifteen other men were sitting round the lodge. The object in view was to cure the girl of a disease affecting her side. As soon as my presence was noticed a space was cleared for me to sit down. The officiating medicine man appeared in a state of profuse perspiration from the exertions he had used, and soon took his seat among the rest as if quite exhausted; a younger medicine man then took his place in front of the bowl, and close beside the patient. Throwing off his blanket he commenced singing and gesticulating in the most violent manner, whilst the others kept time by beating with little sticks on hollow wooden drums, singing continually. After exercising himself in this manner for about half an hour, until the perspiration ran down his body, he darted suddenly upon the young woman, catching hold of her side with his teeth and shaking her for a few minutes, while the patient seemed to suffer great agony. He then relinquished his hold, and cried out he had got it, at the same time holding his hands to his mouth; after which he plunged them in the water and pretended to hold down with great difficulty the disease which he had extracted, lest it might spring out and return to its victim.

“At length, having obtained the mastery over it, he turned round to me in an exulting manner, and held something up between the finger and thumb of each hand, which had the appearance of a piece of cartilage, whereupon one of the Indians sharpened his knife, and divided it in two, leaving one end in each hand. One of the pieces he threw into the water, and the other into the fire, accompanying the action with a diabolical noise, which none but a medicine man can make. After which he got up perfectly satisfied with himself, although the poor patient seemed to me anything but relieved by the violent treatment she had undergone.”

On May 12th, after spending some time in a Klallum Indian village, Kane and his companions attempted to travel through the Strait of Juan de Fuca, but were blown across the strait to the mainland by strong winds. After staying for several days at an Indian village there, Kane and his guides paddled back across the strait to Victoria. On the way, a ferocious gale descended upon the party. Wrote Kane of the incident:

“The Indians on board now commenced one of their wild chants, which increased to a perfect yell whenever a wave larger than the rest approached; this was accompanied with blowing and spitting against the wind as if they were in angry contention with the evil spirit of the storm. It was altogether a scene of the most wild and intense excitement: the mountainous waves roaming round our little canoe as if to engulph us every moment, the wind howling over our heads, and the yelling Indians, made it actually terrific. I was surprised at the dexterity with which they managed the canoe, all putting out their paddles on the windward side whenever a wave broke, thus breaking its force and guiding the spray over our heads to the other side of the boat.”

The travellers survived the storm and arrived at Fort Victoria no worse for wear. The following day, Kane was visited by a great Makah Indian chief named Yellow-cum (also known as ‘Yellakub’ and ‘Flattery Jack’), of whose martial exploits had heard from his Klallum acquaintances. After Kane drew a portrait of Yellow-cum, the chief told him that his father had been the pilot of the Tonquin, a vessel of the Pacific Fur Company whose entire crew, with the exception of Yellow-cum’s father, was massacred by Nootka warriors at the northern end of Vancouver Island in 1808. It should be noted that the only known survivor of the Tonquin incident was a Quinault Indian man named Joseachal, who had served as the ship’s interpreter.

Paul Kane left Fort Victoria in June 9th with an old Nisqually Indian man, along with the man’s wife and two slaves. Among his cargo was a letter from Mr. Finlayson for an HBC agent at Fort Vancouver. The painter’s elderly travelling companion informed him that the letter would ensure their safe passage through regions populated by hostile Indians, as no native would dare hinder the business of the fur trading enterprise on whose goods he relied.

Kane and his companions paddled down the coast of Vancouver Island and across the Salish Sea to Puget Sound, subsisting on goose eggs, seal blubber, bald eagle meat, venison, and small silvery fish called eulachon along the way. During the journey, the old man pointed out a rocky outcrop in the middle of the sea and told the artist a colourful Nisqually legend which purported to explain its origin, along with that of the porpoise and its enmity towards seals.

Kane and his companions arrived at the village of Nisqually on June 15th. The artist purchased a handful of horses and headed for the Columbia River. Along the way, he met a family he had encountered on his trip into the country, who now treated him with cold hostility. Shortly thereafter, he learned from a local halfbreed that one of the native women whose portrait he had taken had died, and that he, through his illustration of her, was suspected to have brought about her death.

Kane promptly purchased a canoe and made his way to Fort Vancouver, fortunately avoiding what he believed would be a violent encounter with any relatives of the deceased woman. He arrived at the fort on June 20th.

Continued in The Adventures of Paul Kane: Part 8.

The Adventures of Paul Kane: Part 6

Back to The Adventures of Paul Kane: Part 5.

The Adventures of Paul Kane: Part 6

Journey Over the Rocky Mountains

On October 6th, Kane and twenty engages, most of them of Iroquois extraction, set out on horseback for Fort Assiniboine, on the banks of the Athabasca River. They brought sixty five horses with them to haul their provisions and the packs of otter skins intended for the Russians. Slowly, they rode northwest over the prairies and reached their destination on October 10th. After repairing some boats they found at the fort, they proceeded up the Athabasca River, labouriously hauling their boats upriver by using tracklines.

On October 15th, the temperature plummetted and snow began to fall. The travellers decided that six of them ought to bring the Russian’s furs back to Fort Assiniboine. The remainder continued on, subsisting on pemmican, and on fresh moose, bear, and beaver meat, as they tracked and portaged their way towards the Rocky Mountains.

On October 28th, the party passed the mouth of what is known today as Oldman Creek, which Kane called the “Old Man’s River”, writing, “The Indians say that an evil spirit once came down this river- which is so rapid that no canoe can ascend it- and that having reached its mouth, where it enters the Athabasca, he made five steps down, leaving a rapid at every steps down, leaving a rapid at every step. These rapids are a mile apart. After which he returned and went up his own river, and has not since been heard of.”

The company followed the Athabasca River towards the Athabasca Pass, proceeding along the northern shore of Jasper Lake. The temperature dropped, and the wind began to howl. On November 3rd, the travellers were rocked to sleep by the roots of the pine trees, which moved up and down as the trees to which they were attached were buffetted by the wind.

The travellers made their way to a HBC post called Jasper House, where they enjoyed a feast of mountain sheep and acquired a number of horses. There, Kane hired a local Shuswap Indian to make him a pair of snowshoes.

After spending a day at Jasper House, the brigade crossed Jasper Lake by canoe and continued south through the mountains. When the snow proved too deep for the horses, the party returned to Jasper House, acquired more snowshoes, and proceeded south through the Athabasca Pass on foot.

Kane and his companions were obliged to wade through the ice-cold headwaters of the Athabasca and Columbia Rivers thirty seven times on the way to their next stopping place, called Boat Encampment. They reached their destination on November 15th, finding that an HBC crew sent from Fort Vancouver to meet them there was preparing to leave without them, thinking that they had been unable to make the journey over the mountain pass. Kane and his companions gratefully received the provisions that their welcoming party had brought for them and plunged in their canoes down the Columbia River.

 

Journey to Fort Vancouver

“Few who read this journal,” Kane wrote, “surrounded by the comforts of civilised life, will be able to imagine the heartfelt satisfaction with which we exchanged the wearisome snowshoe for the comfortable boats, and the painful anxiety of half-satisfied appetites for a well-stocked larder. True it was, that the innumerable rapids of the Columbia were filled with dangers of no ordinary character, and that it required the constant exercise of all our energy and skill to escape their perils, but we now had health and high spirits to help us. We no longer had to toil on in clothes frozen stiff from wading across torrents, half-famished, and with the consciouseness ever before us, that whatever were our hardships and fatigue, rest was sure destruction in the cold solitutes of those dreary mountains.”

Kane and the Columbia Brigade paddled down the Columbia River, shooting several dangerous rapids and avoiding the occasional whirlpool. On November 20th, they arrived at an HBC trading post called Fort Colville, situated in what is now the state of Washington.

They continued downriver, portaging around the Kettle Falls. While shooting the Cascades Rapids, which Kane called the “Grand Rapid”, two of the company’s boats were destroyed, and its occupants barely managed to escape that turbulent stretch of river with their lives. A few members of the party returned upriver to Colville to purchase an addition boat, and to replace some of the provisions lost in the river, delaying the brigade two days.

On November 28th, the party reached an HBC trading post called Fort Okanagan. The following day, they reached another HBC fort called Fort Walla-Walla, at which they decided to remain for five days. The crew completed their voyage to Fort Vancouver in four days, suffering from incessant rain the whole way.

“Fort Vancouver,” Kane wrote, “the Indian name of which is Katchutequa, or ‘the Plain,’ is the largest post in the Hudson’s Bay Company’s dominions, and has usually two chief factors, with eight or ten clerks and 200 voyageurs, residing there. Our society was also enlivened by the addition of the officers of Her Majesty’s ship of war the ‘Modeste’, which had been on this station for two years, and lay in the river opposite the establishment. The buildings are enclosed by strong pickets about sixxteen feet high, with bastions for cannon at the corners. The men, with their Indian wives, live in log huts near the margin of the river, forming a little village- quite a Babel of languages, as the inhabitants are a mixture of English, French, Iroquois, Sandwich Islanders, Crees and Chinooks.”

One of the subjects whom Kane sketched at Fort Vancouver was a Chinook chief named Casanov. Once a powerful chief, Casanov’s influence was greatly reduced when his tribe was decimated by diseases they acquired from white fur traders. In his younger days, Casanov hired an assassin to murder anyone he didn’t like. The assassin eventually eloped with one of Casanov’s ten wives. Furious, the chief tracked down the lovers and killed them both.

Kane remained in Fort Vancouver for about a month, learning the history, customs, and some of the language of the local Chinook Indians. Then, on January 10th, 1847, he travalled down the Columbia River with a trader named Mr. Mackenlie until he reached the mouth of the Willamette River. He proceeded up that waterway until he reached Oregon City.

Kane stayed in Mr. Mackenlie’s home in Oregon City for three weeks. While sitting by the fireplace, the old trader told Kane tales of his adventures while serving as factor of forts in New Caledonia and Walla-Walla. Kane then accompanied a Jesuit missionary named Father Acolti further upriver and overland on horseback to his Roman Catholic mission.

Following his visit with the missionary, Kane returned to Fort Vancouver, encountering and sketching a band of Klackamuss Indians along the way. He stayed in Fort Vancouver until March 25th, spending much of his time horse racing, hunting, and engaging in prototypical rodeo sports with the sailors from the Modeste.

Once, while visiting with sailors on the Modeste, a huge naked Indian came aboard the ship and stode around with a serious expression, examining various artifacts with which he was unacquainted. The ship’s purser, prompted by a sentiment of hospitality, gave the Indian one of his petticoats. Although the garment was far too small for the native, he was delighted with the present and struggled to put it on. “Having, however, suceeded in getting into it,” Kane wrote, “he perambulated the deck with tenfold dignity, and the whole ship’s crew yelled with laughter. The extraordinary noise brought us all on deck, and, amongst others, the captain came up. Even his dignity could not withstand the absurdity of the figure, to which he immediately added, by sending his steward down for an old cocked hat of his, which was given to the Indian. When this was mounted the figure was cmoplete; and seldom has the deck of one of Her Majesty’s ships been the scene of such uproarious and violent laughter. I made several efforts to make a sketch of the Indian before I could succeed; and though I at length did so, yet I fear that the picture would give but a faint idea of the cause of all our merriment.”

On March 25th, 1847, Kane decided to cross the Strait of George to Vancouver Island. Embarking in a canoe, he paddled down the Columbia River. Along the way, Kane made a sketch of Mount St. Helens, the slopes of which the Indians told him was inabited by scoocums, “a race of beings of a different species, who were cannibals”, and that ponds in its vicinity were home to a strange type of fish which had heads like bears.

Instead of following the Columbia to the coast, Kane and the Indian guides who accompanied him headed up the Cowlitz River when they reacehd its mouth. On its banks was an Indian burial ground which Kane decided to visit and sketch. The dead were placed in canoes, which were, in turn, placed on scaffolds in the trees. Various goods which the dead were thought to require in the next life were placed around each coffin. Each artifact was deliberately broken or rendered useless in some way, the Indians believing that the Great Spirit would fix them in the afterlife.

After visiting with a band of Cowlitz Indians, Kane and his crew portaged to the Nisqually River. They followed that river to its mouth in Puget Sound, on the shores of which stood a great Nisqually Indian village.

Continued in The Adventures of Paul Kane: Part 7.

The Adventures of Paul Kane – Part 5

Back to The Adventures of Paul Kane: Part 4.

The Adventures of Paul Kane: Part 4

Journey to Fort Edmonton

Shortly after returning to Upper Fort Garry, Kane learned that a sloop which regularly ferried passengers and supplies from Lower Fort Garry to Norway House at the northern end of Lake Winnipeg would depart shortly. The artist rode down the banks of the Red River to the Stone Fort and boarded the vessel. The sloop embarked shortly thereafter and, after stopping for the night downriver at the farmstead of an Episcopalian missionary named Mr. Smithers, continued downriver. On the way to Lake Winnipeg, Kane and his travelling companions were obliged to take refuge from a thunderstorm in an Indian teepee. The native women and children who occupied the teepee “cleared a corner for us to sleep in,” Kane wrote, “but one of the most awful thunder storms, accompanied by heavy rain, that I had ever witnessed, set in, and effectually prevented our repose. Such tempests are here of frequent occurrence; so vivid was the lightning, and so near the rattling and crashing of the thunder, that I fancied several times during the night that I heard our vessels dashed to pieces by it.” The Indians informed Kane that, in a similar storm which ravaged the region not long before, an Indian teepee was struck by lightning, killing four of its occupants and injuring three more.

The travellers continued downriver to Lake Winnipeg and sailed up that body of water to northerly Playgreen Lake, subsisting on jackfish, or northern pike, during the course of their journey. From there, they sailed to Norway House, where, in addition to the traders, who treated them hospitably, they encountered a band of Swampy Cree.

Kane remained at Norway House until August 14th, finally joining a Columbia Express: a flotilla of York boats arrived from York Factory, the HBC Headquarters on Hudson Bay, which was bound for the Pacific Coast. This particular brigade carried otter pelts intended for the Russians as payment for the HBC’s use of their territory in the Pacific Northwest. Henry and his companions sailed west across Lake Winnipeg to the mouth of the Saskatchewan River. They portaged around the Grand Rapids, headed up Cedar Lake, and continued again up the Saskatchewan River. They passed the mouth of the South Saskatchewan River, which Kane called the Cumberland River, and proceeded up the North Saskatchewan to Fort Carlton, arriving there on September 6th. There, Kane met Robert Rundell, a Cornish Methodist missionary after whom various landmarks in Calgary, Edmonton, and Banff, Alberta, are named today.

Paul Kane, Robert Rundell, and Mr. Rowand, the chief factor of York Factory, with the assistance of a Cree hunter, decided to proceed ahead of the York boats on horseback and wait for the brigade at Fort Edmonton. During their departure, Rundell tucked a pet cat he had brought with him in the breast of his coat, tying a string around the cat’s neck and securing the other end to the pommel of his saddle so that it could not escape. As soon as the horse broke into a trot, the feline passenger leapt from Rundell’s lapel, to the astonishment and horror of the Indians, to whom it appeared as though the cat had materialized from thin air. The cat swung from the string to which it was attached. This pendulum-like motion brought the cat in contact with the horse’s leg, which it immediately clawed. The horse, in response, bucked wildly, sending Rundell flying.

“All present were convulsed with laughter,” Kane wrote, “to which the Indians added screeching and yelling as an accompaniment, rendering the whole scene indescribably ludicrous. Puss’ life was saved by the string breaking; but we left her behind for the men to bring in the boats, evidently to the regret of her master, notwithstanding the hearty laugh which we had had at his expense.”

Shortly after their departure, Kane witnessed a Cree buffalo hunt, which entailed the hunters driving their prey into a buffalo pound, or corral, and slaughtering with bows and arrows therein. After describing this method of hunting, Kane wrote:

“The Indians in this manner destroy innumerable buffaloes, apparently for the mere pleasure of the thing. I myself have seen a pound so filled up with their dead carcases that I could scarcely imagine how the enclosure could have contained them while living. It is not usual to drive in so many that their aggregrate bulk forces down the barriers. There are thousands of them annually killed in this manner; but not one in twenty is used in any way by the Indians, so that thousands are left to rot where they fall. I heard of a pound, too far out of my direct road to visit, formed entirely of the bones of dead buffaloes that had been killed in a former pound on the same spot, piled up in a circle similarly to the logs above described. This improvidence, in not saving the meat, often exposes them to great hardships during the seasons of the year in which the buffalo migrates to the south.”

Kane and his companions rode up the banks of the North Saskatchewan to Fort Pitt, encountering buffalo, prairie wolves, deer, antelope, a prairie fire, and a large band of Cree Indians on the way. From there, they continued on to Fort Edmonton, riding through an enormous herd of buffalo which covered the prairie as far as the eye could see, surviving a battle with a prairie grizzly, and coming across an Indian burial ground whose inmates, their Cree guide informed them, consisted of an entire band which had been wiped out by smallpox.

Paul Kane and his companions reached Fort Edmonton on September 26th, Kane nearly drowning while fording the North Saskatchewan on horseback a short distance from his destination. The day after their arrival, the prairie they had just crossed went up in flames .

Kane spent the next few days sketching the fort and some of the Cree and Assiniboine natives who camped in its vicinity. One of these characters- a short, battle-scarred Assiniboine chief named Potika-poo-ts, or “Little Round Man”- told Kane that he had killed his own mother at her own request, when she professed to be took old and feeble to keep up with her family, by shooting her in the heart with his musket.

Continued in The Adventures of Paul Kane: Part 6.

Two Journals of Robert Campbell

Two Journals of Robert Campbell

(Scroll down to find this book on Amazon)

This book contains the texts of the two little-known journals of Robert Campbell, a Scots-Canadian fur trader who explored the wilds of northern British Columbia, southern Yukon, and the southwest Northwest Territories on behalf of the Hudson’s Bay Company throughout the 1800s.

The first journal spans the period from 1808 to 1851, while the second journal constitutes Campbell’s field notes taken from 1850-1853. These journals were first published by the Shorey Book Store of Seattle, Washington, in 1958. They were published a second time by the same bookshop in 1967. This 2020 edition is the third publication of Campbell’s diaries.

This book is in the public domain.

 

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Welsford Parker and the Mineral Wave Ray

3 Canadian Mad Scientists- 3: Welsford Parker

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Welsford Parker and the Mineral Wave Ray

If you drive an hour southwest of Halifax, Nova Scotia, on the Fishermen’s Memorial Highway, across the Chebucto and Aspotogan Peninsulas and down the Atlantic Coast, you’ll come to the picturesque little community of Western Shore. Just east of this hamlet, in the waters of Mahone Bay, lies a tiny forested isle known as Oak Island, the site of Canada’s longest-running treasure hunt.

In 1795, so the legend goes, three locals discovered a strange depression in the soil on the island’s eastern end. Subsequent investigation revealed the depression to be the top of a deep backfilled shaft in which platforms of oak logs rested at regular 10-foot intervals. Knowing that Mahone Bay, in centuries past, had served as a haven for privateers, the locals suspected that the pit might be the depository of pirate loot.

Ever since this tantalizing discovery of what has since been dubbed the ‘Money Pit’, treasure hunters from all over Canada and the United States have tried their hands at retrieving the shaft’s mysterious contents, only to be thwarted by what appear to be brilliantly-engineered underground flood traps, catastrophic subterranean collapses, and uncannily disproportionate bad luck. To date, Oak Island’s elusive treasure remains undiscovered.

Over the past two centuries, exasperated treasure hunters, unable to solve the riddle of Money Pit through conventional methods, have resorted to all manner of unorthodox solutions in their efforts to locate the island’s slippery spendables. Dowsing rods, automatic writing, psychics, and séances have all been employed by desperate searchers for whom the finest modern technology failed to deliver. Of all these bizarre recourses, by far the most exotic were those taken by Oak Island treasure hunter Gilbert Hedden throughout the year 1937.

The Wilkins Map

Gilbert Hedden was a wealthy New Jersey-based steel manufacturer who took up the Oak Island treasure hunt in 1934. Blessed with a mechanical mind and educated in engineering, Hedden considered himself equal to the task of unlocking Oak Island’s secrets. After three frustrating years of spinning his wheels, however, the hard-headed American was ready to take any help he could get.

In 1937, Hedden’s lawyer, Reginald V. Harris, read a recently-published book written by British journalist Harold T. Wilkins entitled Captain Kidd and his Skeleton Island. The first twelve chapters of this book describe the life of Captain William Kidd, a 17th Century Scottish privateer who was hanged for piracy in 1701, and the aftermath of his execution. The next seven chapters detail various hunts for Kidd’s supposed treasure, which the privateer is rumoured to have buried on some deserted isle sometime prior to his arrest in 1698, and which some theorists have suggested lies beneath Oak Island. The final chapters of Wilkins’ book reveal a new break in the case: the discovery of four 17th Century treasure maps said to have once belonged to Captain Kidd.

These treasure maps, Wilkins claimed, were recently discovered by a wealthy Englishman named Hubert Palmer, who collected genuine pirate artifacts as a hobby. Throughout the 1930s, Palmer acquired four pieces of 17th Century furniture bearing engravings which indicated that they once belonged to William Kidd. Within each of these artifacts was a secret compartment, and within each compartment was a treasure map depicting a particular island in the South China Sea.

At the end of his book, Wilkins included a number of photographs featuring the four pieces of antique furniture, Kidd’s letter of marque, and various portraits of the notorious 17th Century pirate. Hidden among these photographs is an image of a hand-drawn treasure map with a reversed compass, which an accompanying description denotes the first chart that Palmer discovered in Captain Kidd’s supposed sea chest. The map included a host of landmarks and a cryptic legend consisting of three lines of directions.

Reginald Harris couldn’t help but notice that this treasure map, when flipped right-side up, bore remarkable resemblance to Oak Island. Even more intriguing was the fact that many of the map’s features corresponded with landmarks on Oak Island. The lawyer showed the map to Gilbert Hedden, who was similarly fascinated by its many resemblances to his own treasure island. Hedden had a hunch that Wilkins’ chart might, in fact, be a real Oak Island treasure map drawn up by the original Money Pit builders, and sent a letter to Harold Wilkins in which he voiced his suspicion.

Wilkins sent a letter back to Hedden assuring him that the treasure map in his book was not a map of Oak Island, but rather a depiction of an island in some ‘eastern sea’ far from the Atlantic. Hedden was unconvinced. To him, the similarities between Wilkins’ map and Oak Island were too strong to be coincidental. He then turned his attention towards the mysterious directions at the bottom of the chart.

Incredibly, upon closer investigation, Hedden found that the map’s directions and most of its landmarks corresponded almost perfectly, in both quality and dimension, with various features on Oak Island, the existence of many of which the treasure hunter had previously been unaware. Despite the author’s assertions to the contrary, Hedden was more convinced than ever that the chart in Wilkins’ book was a genuine Oak Island treasure map.

Determined to follow this new and exciting lead, Hedden decided to travel to England and meet Harold Wilkins in person. When Hedden informed the writer of his intentions, Wilkins wrote back that he was willing to meet with the treasure hunter, but that such a journey would be a waste of time, as the map in his book was definitely not an Oak Island treasure map. Nevertheless, Hedden made the trip to England and met with Wilkins in December, 1937, in his London hotel room outside Green Park, Piccadilly. His experience was both strange and discouraging.

Upon meeting Hedden, the English author confessed that the map in his book was, in fact, a diagram of his own devising. His publisher had demanded that he include some sort of authentic-looking treasure map in his book. Hubert Palmer, the owner of the four Captain Kidd maps which Wilkins described in his book, would not allow him to publish photos of the charts, and so Wilkins had no choice but to draw his own treasure map based upon his recollection of Palmer’s maps. When his publishers further stipulated that his map contain instructions on how to locate the treasure for added spice, Wilkins fabricated the three lines of directions using nothing more than his imagination.

Baffled, Hedden told the journalist about the uncanny connection between Wilkins’ ad-libbed treasure hunting instructions and the many landmarks on Oak Island. As the treasure hunter explained the extraordinary coincidence, Wilkins became convinced that he must be the reincarnation of a 17th Century pirate, perhaps even Captain Kidd himself, and that his subconscious mind had conjured up some long-forgotten memory of the map leading to Kidd’s lost treasure, buried on Oak Island. After Wilkins enthusiastically revealed his conviction to Hedden, the latter began to suspect that the journalist was, in his words, “every bit as crazy as his book would make him seem.”

Within material furnished him by Fortean archivist Mr. Gary S. Mangiacopra, the author of this piece discovered a puzzling sequel to this mystifying saga, which he presented in a YouTube video entitled Another Wrinkle in the Wilkins Map in the summer of 2019.

The Parker Machine

Harold Wilkins’ treasure map constitutes but one of three curious means by which Gilbert Hedden attempted to solve the riddle of Oak Island in 1937. That same year, the New Jerseyite consulted a psychic from Saginaw, Michigan, named John Wicks, who had previously told the aforementioned Frederick Blair that the Money Pit was the repository of the lost treasure of Tumbez, Peru, spirited away by Incan priests during the 16th Century Conquista of Francisco Pizarro. Instead of shedding light on the location of Oak Island’s treasure, as Hedden hoped he would, Wicks simply told the treasure hunter that “the time [was] not yet ripe” for the lost gold of the Incas to be found.

Hedden’s third 1937 recourse was the ‘Mineral Wave Ray’, a piece of ‘black box’ technology with mysterious inner workings invented by Welsford R. Parker, an equally-mysterious engineer from Windsor, Nova Scotia. Parker claimed that his camera-equipped machine took photographs of objects on which it was able to pinpoint the location of hidden gold and other previous minerals. Although Hedden was dubious of the machine’s ability, his lawyer, Reginald Harris, convinced him to give it a chance, claiming that a fellow lawyer vouched for its efficacy after witnessing a demonstration of the machine in his law office. Hedden allowed Parker to use the machine on Oak Island, and, after an unsuccessful test, wrote it off as “a complete and not very clever hoax”.

Gilbert Hedden abandoned the Oak Island treasure hunt in 1938, passing the torch to a New York engineering professor named Erwin Hamilton. Hamilton, in turn, was succeeded by a Nova Scotian businessman named Mel Chappell, who had worked with his father on the island in the late 1800s.

In December 1950, twelve years after the ‘Mineral Wave Ray’s’ first appearance on Oak Island, Welsford Parker, who had since relocated to Belleville, Ontario, convinced Mel Chappell to allow him to test a new and improved iteration of his machine on the island. This device consisted of a black box filled with wires, vacuum tubes, condensers, resistors, and batteries, with a camera lens attached to one end. It contained two receptacles, one of which was to hold a sample of the substance sought (ex. gold, silver, etc.), and the other being a narrow slit into which a photograph of the target area was to be slipped. The device was surmounted by a pair of rods which the operator was to hold. When the device approached an accumulation of the desired mineral, the rods were allegedly drawn in its direction.

At Chappell’s invitation, Parker wandered about the island with his machine, locating five different spots at which his device indicated the presence of buried treasure. It cost Chappell $35,000 to excavate these points of interest, none of which contained the promised loot. “I fell for it,” Chappell conceded in a later reminiscence. “It looked possible to me at the time, but it turned out there was nothing to it.”

Four years after Parker’s second Oak Island failure, the inventor’s mysterious machine came to the attention of John W. Campbell, the editor of the science fiction magazine Astounding. Campbell was an early (and perhaps the only true) champion of ‘psionics’- a hypothetical field of study revolving around the development of electronic machinery through which the practical application of psychic powers can be effected.

In the spring of 1954, Campbell met with Welsford Parker at the inventor’s home in Bellevue. After examining Parker’s Mineral Wave Ray and listening to Parker’s explanation of its mechanism, the editor became convinced of its merit. “Parker is not a fool,” he wrote. “He’s a brilliant pragmatic experimenter. He has stumbled onto a new, basic principle of the universe.” This principal, Campbell theorized, was an “urge field” to which all human beings were connected. The Mineral Wave Ray, he believed, allowed its operator to unconsciously, psychically locate the object of his or her desire.

Campbell suspected that Parker’s machine could be used as a substitute for radio once identical devices were manufactured. Convinced of its commercial potential, he purchased ten thousand shares of stock in the inventor’s company, Parker Universal Contract Ltd. Following his investment, he optimistically wrote his sister, “[A] larger-size crackpot has to be a millionaire to be a genius, and I’ll be a millionaire.”

Unfortunately for Campbell, Welsford Parker proved an uncooperative business partner. During his second trip to Belleville, Campbell pushed the inventor to define the terms of their arrangement, to which Parker responded by terminating their partnership. As one writer put it, “It evidently never occurred to Campbell… that a man who could spend decades working on such a device might not be the sort to work well with others…” Regrettably, Campbell remained a “crackpot” by his own definition, failing to attain the financial success which he hoped would bolster his legitimacy as a proponent of psionics. Similarly, Welsford Parker’s mysterious machine failed to live up to its own hype, condemning its inventor to the shadowy status of the mad scientist.

The Adventures of Paul Kane: Part 4

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The Adventures of Paul Kane: Part 4

The Red River

On June 4th, the brigade reached Fort Frances, an old French-turned-HBC fur trading post situated at the confluence of Rainy River and Rainy Lake, which had been renamed in honour of George Simpson’s wife in 1830. After drawing the portaits of several Saulteaux Indians, Kane followed the brigade through a deciduous forest, the leaves of which were eaten away by caterpillars, leaving “the whole country wearing the dreary aspect of winter at the commencement of summer.” They crossed the Lake of the Woods beyond, and tracked and portaged their way to Fort Alexander, a French-turned-NWC-turned-HBC trading post located on the Winnipeg River about three miles from its junction with Lake Winnipeg. There, Paul Kane parted ways with the fur brigade, which would continue on to Norway House north of Lake Winnipeg.

Kane learned that a band of Saulteaux Indians was encamped nearby and made his way over to their camp. He presented himself at the camp’s medicine lodge, where he accidentally interrupted some strange ceremony revolving around some mysterious covered object which lay on the floor at the centre of the structure. Shortly thereafter, he hired six Indian guides and asked them to take him to the Selkirk Colony on the shores of the Red River.

Accompanied by Mr. Setler, the factor of Fort Alexander, Kane and his guides paddled along the southern shores of the Winnipeg River and reached the mouth of the Red River two days later. They continued up the Red River where, about twenty miles from its mouth, they reached Lower Fort Garry, which Kane referred to as the “Stone Fort”. There, the artist and his crew encountered Sir George Simpson and other Company men, who were engaged in an annual business meeting.

Kane and his crew proceeded upriver on horseback, passing through the Selkirk Settlement and reaching Upper Fort Garry later that day. The artist hoped to sketch a Metis buffalo hunt (the Metis being a nation born from marriages between French-Canadian voyageurs and native women), and when he learned that a Metis band had set out on a hunting trip two days prior, he rented a Red River cart, hired a local guide, and followed the band’s trail over the Manitoba prairies.

Kane and his new companion overtook the Metis band the following day and found them in a copse cutting wood. The artist learned that the wooden poles would be hauled over the treeless prairie to the hunting grounds, where they would be used to make racks on which to dry buffalo meat. Once thoroughly dry, the meat would be dried, pulverized with rocks, and mixed with rendered buffalo fat to create pemmican- a nutritious food invented by the natives of the plains, which the Hudson’s Bay Company purchased from the Red River Metis in huge quantities every year for the purpose of provisioning their voyageurs.

Kane fell in with the Metis band and followed the halfbreeds out onto the open prairie. During their journey, they were approached by a handful of Sioux chiefs, with whose nation the Metis were at war. While the Metis leaders smoked the pipe of peace with the Sioux chiefs, a lone Metis hunter who had wandered from the camp was killed and scalped by an unknown assailant. The young Metis braves, suspecting that the Sioux had a hand in their friend and relative’s death, would have murdered the Sioux chiefs were it not for the intercession of the more coolheaded Metis elders. In accordance with the laws of Metis hospitality, the elders escorted the Sioux safely from their camp, but warned them that there could be no peace between their nations until their friend’s murder was avenged.

Three days after the departure of the Sioux chiefs, the Metis encountered a small Sioux war party. The Metis warriors lured these braves into an ambush and killed eight of them without suffering any casualties themselves. Although the Metis did not scalp the fallen braves, a small number of Saulteaux who accompanied the halfbreeds indulged their hatred of the Sioux by mutilating the bodies.

The following afternoon, the band came upon a small herd of buffalo cows. Metis hunters rode after the animals and brought down many in the ensuing hunt, shooting them from horseback with their muskets.

Several days later, the Metis came upon a much larger herd of buffalo, this one composed entirely of bulls, and allowed Kane to participate in the hunt. After adjusting their saddles and loading their muskets, the hunters trotted up to the herd. When their prey took flight, the hunters spurred their mounts to a full gallop and rode amidst the fleeing bison.

“The scene now became one of intense excitement,” Kane wrote, “the huge bulls thundering over the plain in headlong confusion, whilst the fearless hunters rode recklessly in their midst, keeping up an incessant fire at but a few yards’ distance from their victims. Upon the fall of each buffalo, the successful hunter merely threw some article of his apparel- often carried by him solely for that purpose- to denote his own prey, and then rushed on to another. These marks are scarcely ever disputed, but should a doubt arise as to the ownership, the carcass is equally divided among the claimants.”

During the hunt, Kane’s own horse was frightened by a buffalo bull and leapt sideways in an effort to avoid it. During the process, it stepped in a badger hole, and Kane was hurled bodily from the saddle. Fortunately, he was unharmed, unlike some of the Metis hunters who had similarly lost their mounts and been knocked unconscious in the ensuing tumble.

Kane regained his mount, resumed the hunt, and managed to bring down his own buffalo bull with one shot. Shortly thereafter, he shot another bull but failed to kill it instantly. After narrowly avoiding a goring, he shot the animal again, mortally wounding it. The buffalo remained on its feet long enough for Kane to dismount and make a sketch of it.

Following the hunt and the processing operation that took place the following day, Kane decided to the Red River with his guide, who was suffering from the measles. On the way, the two men were obliged to spend a thoroughly miserable night in the middle of a marsh called Swampy Lake, the guide being unable to proceed any further that night on account of his condition. The next day, the guide declared that he felt much better, and encouraged Kane to proceed on horse without him, leaving him to manage the slower horse-drawn Red River cart. Shortly after parting with his guide, Kane and his horse nearly drowned in quicksand, and the artist was only able to liberate his animal from the morass through the use of his lasso. He subsequently became lost, and only managed to find his way back to the settlement after stumbling upon the Assiniboine River, which he followed to its confluence with the Red. Upon reaching Fort Gary, Kane learned that his guide had been found half-dead by Metis hunters and brought back to the settlement, his condition apparently having deteriorated rapidly following their separation. The guide died two days later.

Continued in The Adventures of Paul Kane: Part 5.

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The Adventures of Paul Kane: Part 3

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The Adventures of Paul Kane: Part 3

Race to Sault Ste. Marie

In March, 1846, Paul Kane travelled to Lachine, on the Island of Montreal, to meet with Sir George Simpson, Governor of the Hudson’s Bay Company. During their meeting, Kane showed the businessman some of the sketches he made during his late expedition to the Great Lakes and outlined his plan to similarly sketch the natives of the interior. Simpson arranged for Kane to attach himself to a spring HBC canoe brigade, and on May 9th, 1846, Kane accompanied Simpson on a steamship ride to Sault Ste. Marie.

Becore reaching the Sault, the vessel made a stop on Mackinac Island. There, Kane was informed that the steamship would not depart until 9:00 the next morning. Accordingly, he spent the night on shore. The following morning, he was dismayed to find that the steamer had left without him. Determined to catch up with the vessel, Kane rented a canoe and hired a crew of three boys, the eldest only nineteen years old. Although ominous clouds indicated the likelihood of an impending storm, the painter ordered his young employees to paddle for Sault Ste. Marie. Against all odds, the small party reached the mouth of St. Mary’s River, the water trail to Sault Ste. Marie, at sunset, no worse for wear. Knowing that he would have to reach his destination before sunrise if he hoped to catch up with the steamer, the canoeists continued on in the darkness. “After a night of the most violent exertion,” Kane wrote, “after running into all sorts of wrong places and backing out again, after giving up half a dozen times in despair, and as often renewing the struggle, our exertions were crowned with success. When morning dawned, there lay the eagerly looked-for steamer not two miles from us.”

On getting up in the morning,” Kane continued, “Sir George Simpson was astonished at seeing me; and his amazement was not lessened when he learned the mode of my conveyance. The voyage on no former occasion had been performed in so short a time under corresponding circumstances, and to this day the undertaking is still talked of as a rather notable adventure in [Mackinac] and the Sault.”

The Grand Portage

Although there was no room for Kane aboard the HBC canoes which would continue the journey henceforth, the painter managed to gain passage aboard an HBC schooner which heading in the same direction as the brigade. Kane and his new companions made their way up the Saint Mary’s River and across Lake Superior to Fort William, an old North West Company post situated at the mouth of the Kaministiquia River at the site of present-day Thunder Bay, Ontario. There, Kane learned that the HBC canoes had the schooner to Fort William, and that the brigade had already departed for the Grand Portage, the trail to the interior. With the help of the fort’s factor, Mr. Mackenzie, Kane and three engages, as HBC employees were known, set out in search of the brigade. After ten hours of hard paddling, the small party reached the canoeists about thirty miles from the start of the Grand Portage.

Kane joined the brigade, which set up camp shortly thereafter, and accompanied them when they departed that night at 3:00. The company tracked, poled, and portaged their gear up the trails and waterways of the Grand Portage.

On June 1st, the Baymen encountered a family of Saulteaux Indians from whom they purchased some dried sturgeon. According to Kane, these Indians were “considered cannibals” by the HBC employees, or by neighbouring tribes. In his book, Kane goes on to relate the legend of the Wendigo (which he spells “Weendigo”)- a cannibalistic monster into which one who eats human flesh will transform- stating that, according to an Indian superstition, “the Weendigo cannot be killed by anything short of a silver bullet”.

While on the Grand Portage, Kane was told about an event said to have taken place in the area some years before. According to this tale, one winter, a father and a daughter killed and ate six members of their own family in an effort to alleviate their own starvation. Shortly thereafter, they camped near an old Indian woman with whom they were acquainted.

The old woman, seeing that the father and daughter were alone, wisely suspected that something sinister had taken place. As a precaution, she made the entrance to her wigwam slippery by pouring water over it and allowing it to freeze. That night, she stayed awake and listened for intruders, keeping an axe within easy reach. At around midnight, she heard snow crunching underfoot outside her dwelling. Peering through a crack in her wigwam, she spied the girl standing outside, apparently listening in an attempt to ascertain whether or not the old lady was sleeping. The woman pretended to snore, prompting the ravenous girl to rush towards the entrance of her lodge. Slipping on the ice fronting the entrance, the girl tumbled into the wigwam, were the old woman split her head with an axe. Fearing that the girl’s father would seek out and murder her before dawn, the old lady slipped out of her dwelling and retreated into the night. Her fears were justified; later that night, the father, who had been lurking nearby in the darkness, crept into the old woman’s wigwam, where he expected to find his daughter dismembering the crone’s corpse. When he saw his daughter’s body, hunger consumed his senses; without a moment’s hesitation, he proceeded to devour her remains.

Continued in The Adventures of Paul Kane: Part 4.

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The Adventures of Paul Kane: Part 2

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The Adventures of Paul Kane: Part 2

The Tragedy of Shawwanossoway

During Kane’s stay at Minitowaning, Indians from all over the Great Lakes assembled at the village to take part in an annual gathering. One of the visiting chiefs, whose “venerable and dignified appearance” made an impression on Kane, was a great medicine man named Shawwanossoway, or “One with his Face towards the West”. The artist learned that Shawwanossoway was once an accomplished war chief, but that he had exchanged the tomahawk of the warrior for the rattle of the shaman years ago, on account of a tragedy in which he played a central role.

Many years ago, so the story goes, a beautiful Ojibwa girl named Awh-mid-way, or “There is Music in her Footsteps”, lived with her family on the shores of one of the Great Lakes. Awhmidway was in love with a young warrior named Muck-e-tick-enow, or “Black Eagle”, who returned her affections. “In accordance with the customs of her people,” Kane wrote, “she had unhesitatingly extinguished the blazing bark which he had sent floating down the stream that glided past her lodge, and thus acknowledged him as her accepted lover.”

Eager to make Awhmidway his bride, Black Eagle went on a hunting trip in search of especially delicious game, which he would present to Awhmidway’s father as a bridal token, in accordance with Ojibwa custom.

During Black Eagle’s absence, Shawwanossoway- in those days, a renowned war chief- visited Awhmidway’s village and was instantly smitten by Black Eagle’s beautiful fiancé. Shawwanossoway did everything he could to win the maiden’s affection, but to no avail; the girl remained faithful to her absent betrothed, expecting him to return any day to rescue her from the unwanted suitor. When Shawwanossoway learned the reason behind Awhmidway’s stubborn repudiations, he set off into the woods, discovered the camp of Black Eagle, and murdered his rival by shooting him in the back. He then stole the choice game that Black Eagle had acquired and presented it to Awhmidway’s father.

Pleased with the gift, and impressed by Shawwanossoway’s fearsome reputation as a warrior, Awhmidway’s parents urged their daughter to accept the chief’s marriage proposal. Succumbing to the pressure, Awhmidway reluctantly acquiesced, hoping that Black Eagle, of whose death she was unaware, would return to save her before the wedding feast.

On the day on which she was to become Shawwanossoway’s bride, Awmidway escaped in the bridal canoe, in which she and her husband were to embark following the feast. Shawwanossoway tracked down his wife-to-be and, swimming out to her canoe, implored her to return with him to the village. His entreaty fell on deaf ears. The girl and her pursuer travelled throughout the night, in the midst of which, on account of the darkness, the chief lost track of his quarry. The following morning, Shawwanossoway found Awmidway’s red and ragged remains on the shore, scattered amidst a profusion of wolf tracks. Distraught by the death of his love, and furious that his violent conduct had contributed to it, Shawwanossoway resolved to renounce his warlike ways and pursue the path of a medicine man.

Journey to Lake Winnibego

Paul Kane remained on Manitoulin Island for two weeks before taking a steamer to Sault Ste. Marie, at the junction of Lakes Huron and Michigan. There, he met with Mr. Ballantyne, the Hudson’s Bay Company factor at Sault Ste. Marie, who advised Kane against travelling into the interior of the continent alone, instead encouraging him to accompany a Hudson’s Bay Company canoe brigade the next year. “Hoping that, by following this advice,” Kane wrote, “I should be able to travel further, and see more of the wilder tribes, I determined upon confining my travels for the present to a mere summer campaign.”

After spending a few days in Sault Ste. Marie, Kane travelled to the southerly Mackinac Island, where several large bands of Ottawa and Ojibwa had set up camp. On one occasion, Kane returned to his tent to find an Indian dog in the process of devouring his cargo. When the painter shot and killed the animal with his pistol, its owners demanded that he compensate them for it. Kane settled his debt with the family, demanding that they also repay him for the losses their dog had inflicted upon him, and accepted an invitation by that same family later that night to partake in a feast consisting of the dog he had killed.

Kane stayed at Mackinac Island for three weeks before proceeding to Green Bay. From there, he accompanied a U.S. Indian Agent up the Fox River to Menominee Indian village on the shores of Lake Winnibego. On the way, he made an illustration of Menominee fishermen spear fishing on the Fox River at night, attracting fish to their canoes by hanging iron-framed torches, which he called “jack-lights”, over the bow. Kane spent three weeks in the Menominee camp, spending his time sketching chiefs, elders, other interesting characters, before making the journey back to Toronto.

Continued in The Adventures of Paul Kane: Part 3.

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The Adventures of Paul Kane: Part I

The Adventures of Paul Kane: Part I

Early Life

Paul Kane was born in County Cork, Ireland, on September 3rd, 1810, into a family of ten. When he was about ten years old, his family moved to York, Upper Canada (present-day Toronto, Ontario), where Kane’s father, a former British Royal Army cavalryman, took up a new profession as a liquor merchant.

When he was about twenty years old, Paul Kane attended Upper Canada College. There, one of the disciplines he studied was painting- a subject in which he excelled.

In July 1834, some of Kane’s paintings, entitled “Harlich Castle and Sistant View of Snowden N. Wales” and “Lake George after Drury”, were displayed in an exhibition hosted by the Society of Artists and Amateurs in Toronto. Specifically, Kane’s contributions included:

  • Harlich Castle and Distant View of Snowden N. Wales
  • Lake George after Drury
  • Residence of John Gamble, Esq. Mimicoke Creek
  • Elm Park, from a Print
  • View of the Falls of Niagara, from the Print
  • Falls of Tivoli, from a Print
  • A Mameluke, from a Print
  • Hardraw Force, from a Print
  • Landscape, from a Print

An article in the July 4th, 1834 issue of the Toronto-based magazine The Patriot praised Kane’s landscape paintings, as well as those produced by artists Thomas Dixcee and James Hamilton, as possessing “all the freshness and beauties of Nature”. Later articles described Kane’s Harlich Castle and Lake George as being “very agreeable pictures”; his Residence of John Gamble as possessing “much truth to nature” and being “tenderly penciled”; and his Falls of Tivoli as having “great merit in many of its parts”, including the liveliness of its figures, concluding that “practice and study would make Mr. Kane an artist of name”.

Later that year, Kane moved to the town of Cobourg, Ontario, where he was employed by a furniture factory called Freeman Schermerhorn Clench as a furniture decorator. In 1836, Kane moved to Detroit, Michigan, where a celebrated American painted named James Bowman convinced that, if he hoped to further his career as an artist, he ought to study art in Europe. Since Kane did not have the money at that time to pay for passage across the Atlantic, he contented himself with travelling down the Mississippi to New Orleans, during which time he supported himself by working as a portrait painter. In early 1840, while in Alabama, he painted engraving-based portraits of Queen Victoria and U.S. President General William Henry Harrison, both of which enjoyed critical acclaim.

In the spring of 1842, Paul Kane, having accrued sufficient funds, book passage aboard a ship in New Orleans and travelled to Marseilles, France, where he began his Grand Tour of Europe. For the next two years, he travelled throughout Italy, visiting Genoa, Florence, Naples, and Rome, studying the paintings and sculptures of master Renaissance artists like Raphael, Murillo, and Donatello. After travelling through Swizterland and France, Kane decided to spend a winter in London, England, There, he met George Catlin, an American artist who had spent the past decade travelling along the Mississippi and Missouri Rivers, painting the Native Americans he met along the way, and who was in London for the purpose of advertising his collection to prospective European patrons. Many of the subjects of Catlin’s paintings- particularly those belonging to the tribes of the upper Missouri- had only recently been introduced to white men and Euro-American culture, and  practiced an ancient way of life which Catlin suspected was fast-disappearing. Catlin believed that it was the artist’s duty to illustrate these dying cultures for posterity, and included that thesis in his 1851 book Letters and notes on the manners, customs and conditions of the North American Indians, in which he detailed his adventures in the American West.

Journey to Manitoulin Island

Inspired by Catlin, Kane decided to undertake a similar project in Canada. After earning enough money to pay some debts he had accrued in Europe, he returned to Toronto in the winter of 1844-45. Equipping himself with a diary, a sketchbook, a box of paint, a gun, and a stock of ammunition, he departed from Toronto on June 17, 1845, with the intention of travelling to the Pacific coast. He would later describe his adventures in his 1859 book Wanderings of an Artist Among the Indians of North America, from Canada to Vancouver’s Island and Oregon, Through the Hudson’s Bay Company’s Territory and Back Again, which he based on his travel journal.

First, Paul Kane travelled northwest overland to Orillia, situated on the northwestern shores of Lake Simcoe. From there, he travelled by steamer and Indian canoe into Georgian Bay and southwest to the Ojibwa village of Saugeen, located on the eastern shores of Lake Huron. There, Kane sketched portraits of the head chief, who was called Maticwaub, or “Bow”; a sub-chief named Muskuhnoonjee, or “Big Pike”; the daughter of a chief from Lake St. Clair, who was reluctant to sit for the portrait due to her belief that the one who possessed her picture would have power over her; and an old Indian from Owen Sound named Wah-pus, or “Rabbit”.

After staying at Saugeen for ten days, Kane, accompanied by a man named Dillon, travelled up Lake Huron to Manitoulin Island. After taking on provisions at a village called Penetanguishene, Kane and his companion “threaded a labyrinth of islands of every size and form, amounting, as it is said, to upwards of 30,000; and both being strangers to the navigation, we continually lost ourselves in its picturesque mazes, enchanted with the beauty of the very-varying scenery, as we glided along in our light canoe.”

Kane and Dillion continued on to the village of Manitowaning, on Manitoulin Island, where they met with the village chief, “an acute and intelligent Indian” named Sigennok, or “Blackbird”. Captain Anderson, the local Indian Agent, informed Kane that Sigennok was once addicted to liquor, and would routinely drink himself into a violent mania, in which state he terrorized anyone who crossed his path. During one of Sigennok’s drinking bouts twenty three years earlier, Captain Anderson plied him with so much liquor that he slipped into a stupor. While the chief lay senseless, Anderson bound him hand and feet and asked a young Indian boy to watch over him, and to inform him when he awoke. The boy did as requested, and when Sigennok finally came to and demanded to know who had tied him, Captain Anderson lied that the young boy had done so at his request. He proceeded to berate the chief for his moral weakness, his indulgence of which had put him at the mercy of the smallest and weakest member of his band. Thoroughly shamed by the experience, Sigennok vowed to never drink again. True to his word, the chief had never touched a drop of liquor since.

Continued in The Adventures of Paul Kane: Part 2.

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